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The effectiveness of US energy efficiency building labels

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 11 April 2017


Information programs are promising strategies to encourage investments in energy efficiency in commercial buildings. However, the realized effectiveness of these programs has not yet been estimated on a large scale. Here we take advantage of a large sample of monthly electricity consumption data for 178,777 commercial buildings in Los Angeles to analyse energy savings and emissions reductions from three major programs designed to encourage efficiency: the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program and the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. Using matching techniques, we find energy savings that range from 18% to 30%, depending on the program. These savings represent a reduction of 210 million kilowatt-hours or 145 kilotons of CO2 equivalent emissions per year. However, we also find that these programs do not substantially reduce emissions in small and medium sized buildings, which represent about two-thirds of commercial sector building emissions.

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Figure 1: Bias reduction in matched samples for the three energy programs.
Figure 2: Comparison of site Energy Use Intensity.


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This study would not be possible without S. Pincetl and her Energy Atlas team at the California Center for Sustainable Communities. For collaboration and access to program data, we thank D. Hodgins and J. Gould at the Los Angeles Better Buildings Challenge and B. Stapleton at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. We also thank T. Vir Singh for high performance computing support on the Hoffman2 cluster. For helpful comments and suggestions, we thank H. Godwin, P. Kareiva, B. Lawrence, J. Lim, S. Neff, S. Muthulingam, S. Pincetl, D. Rajagopal, J. Sekhon and M. Tikoff Vargas. This research was supported by funding from the UCLA Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Program in Real Estate, Finance and Urban Economics; the Easton Technology Leadership Program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management; the University of California Center for Energy and Environmental Economics at Berkeley; the UCLA Institute for Digital Research and Education (IDRE) Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Pritzker Distinguished Chair in Environment and Sustainability.

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O.I.A. and M.A.D. contributed equally to this study.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Magali A. Delmas.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Supplementary Figures 1 and 2, Supplementary Tables 1–11, Supplementary Notes 1–3, Supplementary References. (PDF 1130 kb)

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Asensio, O., Delmas, M. The effectiveness of US energy efficiency building labels. Nat Energy 2, 17033 (2017).

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